International Council for the Exploration of the Sea
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Azores ecoregion – Ecosystem overview

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posted on 2020-12-10, 00:00 authored by ICESICES

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For this overview, the Azores ecoregion corresponds to the Azores Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) inside ICES Subarea 10 (Figure 1). The ecoregion lies within a much larger open ocean ecosystem, and straddles the Mid-Atlantic Ridge (MAR). The Azores is a Portuguese archipelago composed of nine islands with almost no geological continental shelf, and the Azores Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) includes 461 identified seamounts.

The Azores are located on the northern border of the Subtropical Gyre of the North Atlantic, characterized by a high horizontal temperature gradient and the strong influence of the Gulf Stream; this transports hot surface water of equatorial and tropical origin from the west to the ecoregion. The North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) affects the flow of regional sea currents.

The main water masses in the Azores ecoregion are as follows: the North Atlantic Central Water at depths shallower than 600–700 m above the main thermocline; the North Atlantic Deep Water below 2000 m depths; and the Subarctic Intermediate Water, Labrador Sea Water, and Antarctic Intermediate Water at intermediate depths. The Mediterranean Water can also occur at intermediate depths between approximately 650 m and 1200 m.

Fisheries in the Azores are managed under the EU Common Fisheries Policy (CFP), with some fisheries managed by the North East Atlantic Fisheries Commission (NEAFC), the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT), and regional government. Fisheries advice is provided by the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES), the European Commission’s Scientific Technical and Economic Committee for Fisheries (STECF), the South West Waters Advisory Council (SWWAC), and the Long Distance Advisory Council (LDAC). For large pelagic fish (tuna and tuna-like species) fisheries advice is provided by ICCAT. Environmental policy is managed by national agencies and OSPAR, with advice being provided by national agencies, OSPAR, the European Environment Agency (EEA), and ICES. International shipping is managed under the International Maritime Organization (IMO) and whaling is managed by the International Whaling Commission (IWC).


Published under the auspices of the following ICES Steering Group or Committee

  • ACOM


ICES Advice: Ecosystem overviews

Recommended citation

ICES. 2020. Azores ecoregion – Ecosystem overview. In Report of the ICES Advisory Committee, 2020. ICES Advice 2020, EcosystemOverview_Azores_2020.

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